Can My Employer Retaliate if I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

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Workers in Chicago have legal protections against employer retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It is against the law for employers to discriminate in any way against injured employees because they filed a claim. This includes firing workers, withholding bonuses or promotions, or harassing an employee. Injured workers may still be able to lose their jobs for reasons not related to filing a claim, however.

Avoiding Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

At-will employees, who make up most of Chicago’s workers, can lose their job at any time if an employer chooses to fire them, as long as the reason is legally sound. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against any employees, including those who have sustained work-related injuries and filed a work injury claim against them. Discrimination could entail firing, reassigning, demoting, or punishing injured workers in other ways.

With these protections in place, workers can file a workers’ comp claim if they were injured while performing the duties of their jobs without worrying about getting punished. Employers also have more incentive to maintain a safe workspace for all employees and others.

Employees Could Still Lose Their Job After Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Although workers have protections that keep employers from retaliating against them after they file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, employers may still be able to fire employees for other reasons not related to the filing of a claim. 

For example, an employee with a known history of inadequate performance and/or rule violations could still lose hir or her job for those reasons after sustaining a work-related injury. Workers’ comp laws in Illinois also don’t guarantee that employees will be able to return to their previous job following a workplace accident. Employers are usually not required to keep an employee’s position available to them and often switch them to another position within the same company when they are able to return to work.

When Employers Fire Individuals Due to a Claim

If a worker is fired and believes the employer’s actions are retaliatory in nature, a work injury attorney may be able to help them prove that discrimination took place due to a workers’ compensation claim

One of the best ways to determine if discrimination occurred is the timing of the firing. For instance, an employee may be fired within a couple of days of filing a claim, which could indicate that the employer fired him or her out of retaliation.

In other cases, employers may discuss a claim in a negative tone or even attempt to convince the employee to drop the claim. These actions could support a claim of workplace retaliation. 

Employees should also consider the specific reason given for losing their jobs after filing a claim. Reasons that could invalidate claims may include poor performance, inappropriate behavior, the financial wellbeing of the company, and others.

Seeking Compensation for Workplace Retaliation

In addition to compensation for a work injury in the initial claim, workers may be able to recover compensation for retaliation if they can prove that an employer fired them or discriminated against them as a response to filing a claim. Oftentimes, workers will need to file the retaliation claim while the workers’ comp claim is still in progress. 

If a worker proves that retaliation resulted in the lost job, he or she may be able to return to the job and recover payment for any wages lost while out of work.

Even if an injured worker’s termination results from a reason that isn’t discriminatory or retaliatory, workers may benefit from other laws on the state and federal levels. These include the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers at larger companies to provide employees with job-protected leave in the event of a serious medical condition, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires all employers to accommodate employees with disabilities or certain conditions. Other state laws further protect workers with specific conditions, making it important for workers with work-related disabilities to understand their rights.

Filing a Claim for Workers’ Comp and Retaliation

If an injured worker files a workers’ comp claim in Chicago and believes he or she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation, the employee may be able to recover compensation for the work-related injury as well as the losses caused by the wrongful termination. For a claim to be successful, the injured worker and his or her work injury attorney must prove that the employer practiced discrimination. Any evidence such as suspicious timing or negative discussions about a workers’ comp claim could help show that an employer terminated an employee out of retaliation.